Monday, May 21, 2007

Knittin' in the U.K.

The DH and I got back from England a couple of weeks ago, where we had a very nice time visiting relatives. However, it was quite disappointing from a yarn tourism perspective. Here's what I discovered about knitting in the U.K.:
  • No one does it in public. Really, I never saw even sweet old grandmas with knitting needles. I thought knitting was supposed to be big in England! There are sheep everywhere! Grommit knits, for heaven's sake! My parents, who are English, had to learn to knit in school! Perhaps there's a backlash going on, but no one was knitting.
  • There were no cute yarn stores anywhere I went. Even in tourist-y Stratford, the only place selling yarn was a little five-and-dime type place with skeins of nasty acrylic. Bath, a large and lovely city, had a stall in the marketplace, also with acrylic. I once chased a bus because it had a yarn shop advert on the side saying "World of Wool." This was apparently in Leamington Spa, which wasn't on our itinerary. Finally, I found a sewing shop in dull, industrial Melksham with nice wool, so I bought some like the addict I am, even though it wasn't very exciting or exclusive or anything. What are they doing with all those sheep? The mind boggles!
  • My relatives mostly thought I was slightly mad for knitting so much. One of my aunts said, "Well, you wouldn't really want to knit a sweater anyway, would you, when it's so much easier just to buy one."
  • I still got lots of knitting done. Trains, which are plentiful and useful in the U.K., though much more expensive than they used to be, are great places to knit. I finished a sock for the DH and got most of the way through a shrug for me, which I finished this past weekend.
Say what you will about us Yanks, at least we know the point of a pair of needles, pun intended!


Bogie said...

Wow. I thought there would have been more knitting, more yarn shops, and a different attitude toward knitting as well. Huh. I guess it's a lot like here (in the US that is, not in the South Bay). Just goes to show that we're a bit spoiled! ;-)

Thanks for wishing me a happy birthday and leaving that wonderful comment!! You really made my day!

seltsame said...

The secret to yarn shopping in Europe is that they very rarely have dedicated yarn stores. In fact, knitting is so mainstream that most department stores have a craft department where you can find knitting, sewing and embroidery supplies. The John Lewis department stores have at least Debbie Bliss and Rowan and often have knitted display models. And they check your dye lots!

Wiz Knitter said...

I had heard this about John Lewis, Harrod's, etc. I guess, since I can get Rowan or Debbie Bliss anywhere, that I was hoping for a nice little locally-produced, hand-dyed type place.

Alison said...

I think the lack of knitting in public in the UK is due to the faster pace of life (at least faster than I see here in California).

When I lived there I was always dashing about, no where to park, everything more crowded, public transport busy and dirty.

I used to knit on the train when I had a long train commute, but it was always crowded, people would be crushed against you even if you were lucky enough to get a seat. And god forbid my yarn went on the carriage floor - yuk!

There are knitters around, and I have friends who knit at the theatre, or meet at knitting groups in cafes or pubs.

Sheetal is correct about most of the best yarn being in the department stores. Rowan is heavily dominant. The small yarn stores tend to be more old fashioned than the boutique kind - although I think that is changing.

Mandy Griffiths said...

I came across your comments whilst sitting in my little wool shop on a wet Saturday afternoon - I got really fed up of trying to find any where to buy any decent yarn in my area and everytime we went anywhere I would always look for a wool shop one afternoon in North Wales my husband said 'why don't you open your own' so I did!!

My shop - The Wool Shack - is in Newport in South Wales and has now been open for 16 months. I have had to branch into babywear to keep going in the quieter summer months but I love it! I stock most yarns but have had to scale down on the more expensive yarns as only the dedicated few are willing to spend that much. I now have a web site and that is helping to keep me going! It is sad that people are not knitting as much as they used to, but the trend is definately returning!
Happy Knitting everyone!